PR predictions for 2016: VR, sincerity, relatability

Industry leaders on what to expect in public relations in the year ahead

Virtual reality will really take off, there will be significant growth in real-time communication and social media, and sincerity and relatability will grow in importance. These are some of the trends that PR experts see for the coming year. Marketing asked agency heads for their predictions, outlooks and wishes for 2016. Here’s what they had to say:

Bruce MacLellan, chairman and CEO, Environics Communications

“Canada is back” is a phrase repeated frequently by our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Encompassed in these words is a much greater statement about enduring Canadian values such as tolerance, empathy and fairness. Research shows these values actually never left, but were overshadowed by the former government’s obsession with control and preference for divisiveness.

Trudeau’s style of openness is a political asset and it is also a reminder for marketers. The voter coalition that elected him aligns with audiences coveted by many companies; women, young people, newcomers, and the higher educated, as examples. A majority of Canadians support his welcoming of refugees just as much as they like his diverse and gender-equal cabinet.

Marketers need to understand the values of Canadians, the different variances by segment, and how they are influenced. As well, people don’t want to be sold to, they want to be spoken with. Sincerity will take many forms in 2016, and public relations pros can help organizations to behave transparently.

Relatability will also grow in importance. Jaw-dropping marketing is no substitute for long-term engagement.  Marketers aren’t competing against their category anymore; they’re up against every single person in a consumer’s social network.  Brands will need to generate interest with their audiences in a way that makes them say: “I can see myself in this.”

And finally, one last lesson from our new PM is his perpetual stream of smartphone photos; to resonate, stories have to be mobile. If a story isn’t accessible via smartphone or tablet, marketers will lose a good portion of their audience.

Daniela Syrovy, president, ClutchPR

This year VR saw a boost in credibility as companies like Google, Facebook, Disney and Samsung invested heavily in virtual reality technology and Time magazine put the virtues of VR on its cover. It’s no secret that VR is here to stay.

2016 will be the year it hits next level of marketing and PR potential. An area where VR has already gained traction is travel and tourism marketing with organizations like Destination BC using virtual reality for its “The Wild Within VR Experience” –an interactive three dimensional video allowing travellers to experience British Columbia in an immersive way. The possibilities are endless when you consider the power of transporting consumers to an experience without them having to leave the comfort of their own home.

We will see the continued rise of Periscope and Meerkat for creating an immediate and more authentic connection for brands. As Snapchat has already demonstrated people are hungry for short, temporary bursts of social communication. Big brands like Benefit and Adidas have been quick to use the platform to provide their consumers with product tutorials or behind-the-scenes access. Adidas turned to Periscope to live stream soccer star James Rodriguez sign his endorsement extension contract. This kind of exclusive access naturally creates high points in your content creation strategy.

Andrea Lekushoff, president, Broad Reach Communications

Building on consumers’ deep attachment to their smartphones, I believe 2016 will see significant growth in real-time communication, turning it into a hot tactic for leading and innovative PR agencies. Recently named Apple’s App of the Year, the live streaming mobile video app Periscope demonstrated RTC’s appeal to content-hungry audiences that crave instant, authentic access to news- and trend-makers. And with the recent launch of Facebook Live, this technology is now within reach of more than 1 billion social media users.

RTC makes it easy for marketers around the world to operate their own mobile broadcast stations to share video and audio, and interact directly with targeted local or even global audiences. So far we’ve seen this new platform used mainly for bold, behind-the-scenes reporting on product launches. However, there’s considerable potential for it to start shaking up traditional corporate, analyst and investor communications as well. RTC creates a new avenue to help corporate communicators discover digital and social media tools, and offers a fresh, creative way to bring senior executives into the spotlight as experts and thought leaders.

This trend speaks to the need for tech-savvy, forward thinking PR advisors who can help clients navigate these emerging media opportunities. However, the astounding speed and unedited nature of RTC also reinforces the important risk mitigation role of PR practitioners, by helping clients develop crisis and issues management plans to protect company reputations should something go “off script.” While some observers may use words like “dynamic,” “democratic” or “dangerous,” to describe this tech-powered communication evolution, smart and strategic exploration of RTC can reap solid ROI for industry trailblazers.

Carol Levine, CEO, Energi PR

My wish for 2016 is for a more engaged approach to building relationships with customers and stakeholders. All indications point to still greater uptake in social media. Marketers and communicators will still increasingly use visual material and platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. In the area of healthcare communications where Energi PR is deeply involved, we see openness to testing the waters of how social media can be used effectively and in compliance with the regulatory guidelines. Collaborative approaches to social media guidelines that include regulatory, legal and marketing will set the stage for opportunities for healthcare clients to be both present and responsive.

Providing information in new ways that are compelling for media and their audiences will occupy our attention more than ever. Content is king, but with so many platforms available, having an impact demands being discerning about what we say, how we say it and where. Fortunately for our industry as a whole, we notice a shift in thinking from quantity to quality. Online media impressions might appear impressive to some, but those in the know, know the value of targeting.

Social listening, something PR agencies have been using to gather intelligence for strategic planning and a process we have been recommending to clients as a means of using data to drive content, will become a common line item in communications plans.

Finally, let’s not ignore traditional media and the strong relationships that we have built over the years. We need to ensure that our teams continue to develop the soft skills necessary to have thoughtful, productive conversations with journalists.







See all comments Recent Comments
Gaven Dumont

Very enlightening article. Thanks for the insights. On our side
sharability will be key. Providing value is great, but to turn that value to a consumer into ‘social currency’ for them to share with others, is paramount in building a stronger bond with your brand. This can be an exclusive piece of content, or a unique event or experience that provides ‘share-points’ – key points to which your consumer can share a part of the experience with their network. 

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